Right time for angel investments, say experts

Angel investors should ideally help start-ups by leveraging their own domain expertise, guide them in customer acquisition and become quasi-entrepreneurs themselves and assist in scaling the business.

Angel investors should ideally help start-ups by leveraging their own domain expertise, guide them in customer acquisition and become quasi-entrepreneurs themselves and assist in scaling the business.

Bengaluru: Start-up funding may be slowing, but this is the right time to make angel investments, since companies being built now will mature when the market becomes favourable again, seasoned investors at a conference for angel investors said.

“When we used to do workshops, we would start the workshop saying, at the end of it, 50% of the people would not want to be angel investors, which is okay. So, the idea is not to grow the numbers, the idea is to get those who get angel investment to enable them to become investors and to make people understand that this is a high risk asset,” said Shanti Mohan, co-founder of LetsVenture, an online platform for start-ups and angel investors that organized the LetsIgnite conference.

India has about 4,000 start-ups, the third largest concentration of start-ups in the world, according to software industry body Nasscom. Many people who want to get a piece of this pie start with angel investments—small amounts for companies beginning to build their businesses. This capital is crucial for start-ups, but what’s also crucial is for the first-time investors to understand that angel investment is about more than putting in some money in a company.

According to Sharad Sharma, a well-known angel investor and Shekhar Kirani, partner at Accel Partners, who jointly conducted a workshop for angel investors at the event, if there is momentum in a specific sector, and if it is being billed as “hot”, then it is too late to invest in it.

“You have to be at least 18 months ahead of the market and think about what’s going to happen at that point,” said Kirani, who was an angel investor in Filpkart Ltd, before his venture capital firm itself invested in the company.

Angel investors should ideally help start-ups by leveraging their own domain expertise, guide them in customer acquisition and become quasi-entrepreneurs themselves and assist in scaling the business.

Both Sharma and Kirani advised first-time investors to start off as passive angel investors and learn from other experienced investors, then become co-leads on a couple of deals and only then become lead angel investors on a deal.

“It is very tempting to fast-forward this, because in India, there is an acute gap in the amount of capital that entrepreneurs want and in the amount of capital that is available, but self-knowledge for an investor is important to realise that it takes time to become an expert angel investor from a novice investor,” said Sharma, who is an angel investor in companies like Druva, Ezetap and Frrole, among others.

Sanat Rao, partner, IDG Ventures, said angel investment will continue despite the overall slowdown.

“While there may be an overall slowdown in the quantum of angel investment if the market itself slows down, angel investment will continue because people who did well at well-funded companies, founders and those below them, are investing themselves now, and all these guys get the best deal flow as entrepreneurs know each other. This is here to stay. It is not going to disappear tomorrow,” said Rao, who made seven angel investments before he became a venture capitalist.

[“source-Livemint”]

US Police Say Criminals Like Apple’s iPhone Because of Encryption

US Police Say Criminals Like Apple's iPhone Because of Encryption

Some criminals have switched to new iPhones as their “device of choice” to commit wrongdoing due to strong encryption Apple Inc has placed on their products, three law enforcement groups said in a court filing.

The groups told a judge overseeing Apple’s battle with the US Department of Justice on Thursday that, among other things, they were aware of “numerous instances” in which criminals who previously used so-called throwaway burner phones have now switched to iPhones. They did not list a specific instance of this practice.

The brief by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and two other also cited a jailhouse phone call intercepted by New York authorities in 2015, in which the inmate called Apple’s encrypted operating system “another gift from God.”

The government obtained a court order last month requiring Apple to write new software to disable passcode protection and allow access to an iPhone used by one of the shooters in the December killings in San Bernardino, California.

Apple asked that the order be vacated, arguing that such a move would set a dangerous precedent and threaten customer security.

Tech industry leaders including Google, Facebook and Microsoft and more than two dozen other companies filed legal briefs on Thursday supporting Apple. The Justice Department received support from law enforcement groups and six relatives of San Bernardino victims.

(Also see:  Husband of San Bernardino Attack Victim Takes Apple’s Side in FBI Spat)

The law enforcement groups said in their brief that Apple’s stance poses a grave threat to investigations across the country.

They listed several instances where Apple previously turned over data, and in one case, that cooperation helped clear an innocent man suspected of a homicide.

Apple has said it respects the FBI and has cooperated by turning over data in its possession. “Apple complies with valid subpoenas and search warrants,” Tim Cook said in a letter to customers last month.

The San Bernardino request is different, Apple says, because it requires them to crack a phone with a software tool that does not currently exist.

Law enforcement officials have said that Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were inspired by Islamist militants when they shot and killed 14 people and wounded 22 others on December 2 at a holiday party in San Bernardino. Farook and Malik were later killed in a shootout with police, and the FBI said it wants to read the data on Farook’s work phone to investigate any links with militant groups.

© Thomson Reuters 2016

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Tags: Apple, Apple vs FBI, Encryption, FBI, iPhone, Tim Cook
[“Source-Gadgets”]

We feel cheated by BJP’s communal politics, say Patel leaders in Gujarat

We feel cheated by BJP’s communal politics, say Patel leaders in Gujarat
Photo Credit: Sam Panthaky/AFP
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On August 25, 2015, even as Rahul Desai joined thousands of Hardik Patel supporters in a rally demanding caste-based reservations for Patidars, he could never have imagined that he would be spewing venom against the Bharatiya Janata Party one day.

But six months after the infamous Patel rally, which led to rioting and vandalism in Ahmedabad and reported police atrocities on Patidars across Gujarat, Desai cannot contain his bitterness against the party ruling both the Centre and the state. The 31-year-old Desai is the Ahmedabad West convenor of Hardik Patel’s Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, and has been actively mobilising community members ever since Hardik Patel and other leaders of the organisation were arrested on sedition charges in October.

“In all my speeches, I remind people that we Patels have supported the BJP for years, not just through votes but also through notes,” said Desai, speaking to Scroll.in on a busy street in Ahmedabad’s Bapunagar suburb. “Patidar money helped BJP rise to power, and now look how they are treating us. We cannot let them win in the state election next year.”

Rahul Desai, a convener for the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti in Ahmedabad
Rahul Desai, a convener for the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti in Ahmedabad

Police atrocities unpunished?

Like many of the Patels around him, Desai’s grouse isn’t merely that the BJP is refusing to grant Other Backward Class status to the Patidar caste. The more immediate complaint, he says, is that the state government of Anandiben Patel has so far allowed the Gujarat police to get away with impunity with the many crimes it allegedly committed in the days after August 25, 2015.

For two days after the rally, in Bapunagar, Naroda, Ranip and other Patel-dominated neighbourhoods of Ahmedabad, army and Gujarat police personnel reportedly assaulted residents in their homes, vandalised their windows and cars, and made sexualised threats towards women. Similar allegations were made by Patidars in Surat, Mehsana, Patan and other parts of Gujarat.

Six months on, hundreds of Patel men have been slapped with what Desai calls “predominantly false” charges of looting, rioting, murder and attempt to murder. “But not a single FIR has been lodged against the police for breaking into our homes, beating innocent men and women, and destroying so much of our property,” he said. “We have gone to file complaints several times in the past few months, but none of it gets formally lodged as an FIR.”

The only case filed against the police so far has to do with the custodial death of Shwetang Patel, a 30-year-old from Bapunagar, and it was lodged only after the Gujarat High Courtordered the Criminal Investigation Department to take over the case. “All these months later, the CID’s investigations are going nowhere,” said Desai, one of the many Patidar Samiti members who pursued the registration of the First Information Report in Shwetang Patel’s case. “Only two policemen have been suspended so far, and they are both constables with desk jobs who could not have been involved in the beatings that led to Shwetang’s death.”

‘Congress did well because of Patels’

For many Patels, the outrage at such police “harassment” and the lack of media sympathy for their plight has led to a compounded frustration with the BJP government and its leaders.

The Patidar demand for OBC reservation was born out of growing unemployment, corruption in higher education and the alleged failure of Narendra Modi’s famed Gujarat model of development. Six months ago, the criticism of the BJP, which has ruled the state for 20 years, was guarded and hesitant. Now, as Patels struggle to cope with a newfound fear of the police and the perceived indifference of the state and Central governments, the anti-BJP sentiment has been pouring out.

When Gujarat had its local body elections in December 2015, the Congress won an unprecedented 21 district panchayats out of 31, even though the BJP retained its hold on civic bodies in urban areas. “The Congress did so well in rural Gujarat because of us Patels,” said Maheshbhai Patel, a diamond polisher from Bapunagar. “We could have made the BJP lose in urban areas also, but the names of at least five lakh Patels were taken off the voters list.”

Despite these allegations, Maheshbhai Patel is relieved that in India Colony, a neighbourhood within Bapunagar, all four civic corporators who won the election are from the Congress. In Mehsana, the local Patidar Samiti president Lalbhai Patel states with pride that the new chairman of the Mehsana municipal corporation’s town planning department is a Muslim woman from the Congress – Allahrakhi Belim. “This is the first time in years that a Muslim has held a post of authority at the municipal level in Mehsana, and the Patels are in a way responsible for that,” said Lalbhai Patel.

‘Godhra train burning was a BJP plan’

Six months ago, Patidars were uncomfortable bringing up the obvious parallels between the police atrocities they faced and the Muslim victims of the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat. But today, Patidar Samiti leaders like Rahul Desai and Lalbhai Patel are candid enough to raise the communal question themselves as they lash out against the BJP.

“The BJP is fundamentally a communal party that has been planting its ideology of fearing Muslims for years now,” said Desai. “I can tell you with certainty that Modi would never have been re-elected as the chief minister in 2002 if it had not been for the Godhra train burning.”

In February 2002, a mob at Godhra railway station killed 59 commuters of the Sabarmati Express by setting fire to its coaches. Thirty one Muslims were later convicted. The arson was followed by intense communal riots across Gujarat in which more than a thousand people died. Desai, who was in school at the time, remembers being shown videos of the Godhra train burning in class.

“They were doing it to propagate the idea that all Hindus need to come together or else the Muslims would kill us,” said Desai. “I don’t know if the men who burnt the train were Muslims or not, but I know that the Godhra train burning was a pre-planned political stunt by the BJP to win the state election later that year.”

When communal thinking takes root, says Desai, it is very difficult to get rid of. “Because of the BJP’s propaganda, all of us began to think communally, and I feel kind of cheated now,” he said. “Even today, people are afraid that Muslims will riot against them, but honestly, even if they don’t, the BJP will get it done.”

‘Such politics leads to Naxalism’

Desai acknowledges that he may not be speaking for all Patidars in Gujarat, but he is certain that all other members of the Patidar Andolan Samiti share his views.

In Mehsana, Lalbhai Patel could not agree more. “Of course, Godhra and the 2002 riots were orchestrated by the BJP. It is obvious to us now, but back then it wasn’t,” said Lalbhai Patel. “Last time they targeted Muslims. Now they are allowing the Patels to be persecuted. This is exactly the kind of politics that leads to the creation of Naxals.”

For now, Patidar leaders are in no mood to support the party they were once loyal to in the state Assembly election next year. But even as the community accepts help from the Congress to fight various cases against Patidar men, Desai and Lalbhai are firm that Patel allegiance will not blindly bend towards the Congress this election.

“We will vote for whoever gives in to our demands – both reservations and justice for the police atrocities,” said Lalbhai Patel. “The Patidars are already now building connections with OBC Thakors and Miyas [Muslims], so you never know – even a third front might come up.”

[“source-Scroll”]

The world’s forests will collapse if we don’t learn to say ‘no’

The world's forests will collapse if we don't learn to say 'no'
Photo Credit: internationalrivers/flickr
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An alarming new study has shown that the world’s forests are not only disappearing rapidly, but that areas of “core forest” — remote interior areas critical for disturbance-sensitive wildlife and ecological processes — are vanishing even faster.

Core forests are disappearing because a tsunami of new roads, dams, power lines, pipelines and other infrastructure is rapidly slicing into the world’s last wild places, opening them up like a flayed fish to deforestation, fragmentation, poaching and other destructive activities.

Most vulnerable of all are forests in the tropics. These forests sustain the planet’s most biologically rich and environmentally important habitats.

The collapse of the world’s forests isn’t going to stop until we start to say “no” to environmentally destructive projects.

Damn the dams

Those who criticise new infrastructure projects are often accused of opposing direly needed economic development, or – if they hail from industrial nations – of being hypocrites.

But when one begins to look in detail at the proposed projects, an intriguing pattern appears: Many are either poorly justified or will have far greater costs than benefits.

For example, in a recent essay in the journal Science, Amazon expert Philip Fearnside argues that many of the 330-odd hydroelectric dams planned or under construction in the Amazon will be more trouble than they’re worth.

Many of these dams will have huge environmental impacts, argues Fearnside, and will dramatically increase forest loss in remote regions.

This happens both because the Amazon is quite flat, requiring large areas of forest to be flooded, and because dams and their power lines require road networks that open up the forest to other human impacts. For instance, the 12 dams planned for Brazil’s Tapajós River are expected to increase Amazon deforestation by almost 1 million hectares.

Furthermore, Fearnside argues, much of the electricity the Amazon dams produce will be used for smelting aluminium, which provides relatively little local employment.

Fearnside asserts that mega-dams planned for the Congo Basin and Mekong River will also cause big problems, with limited or questionable benefits.

Roads to ruin

The explosive expansion of roads into the world’s last wild places is an even more serious problem. Indeed, Eneas Salati, one of Brazil’s most respected scientists, once quipped that “the best thing you could do for the Amazon is to blow up all the roads”.

Current projections suggest that by 2050, we’ll have nearly 25 million kilometres of additional paved roads – enough to encircle the Earth more than 600 times.

I have led three major studies of planned road expansion, for the entire planet and for theBrazilian Amazon and sub-Saharan Africa. All three show that many planned roads would have massive impacts on biodiversity and vital ecosystem services while providing only sparse socioeconomic benefits.

In Africa, for example, our analyses reveal that 33 planned “development corridors” would total over 53,000 kilometers in length while crisscrossing the continent and cutting into many remote, wild areas. Of these, we ranked only six as “promising” whereas the remainder were “inadvisable” or “marginal”.

Progress at any price?

There is a very active coalition of pro-growth advocates – including corporate lobbyists, climate-change deniers, and die-hard proponents of “economic growth” – that immediately decry any effort to oppose new developments.

Added to this are those who argue reasonably for economic development to combat poverty and disparity in developing nations. Such advocates often assert that an added bonus of development is greater sustainability, because impoverished people can be highly destructive environmentally. The denuded nation of Haiti is one such example.

Yet the on-the-ground reality is often far more complex. For instance, the heavy exploitation and export of natural resources, such as minerals, fossil fuels or timber, can cause nations to suffer “Dutch Disease” – an economic syndrome characterised by rising currency values, economic inflation and the weakening of other economic sectors, such as tourism, education and manufacturing.

Dutch Disease tends to increase economic disparity, because the poor are impacted most heavily by rising food and living costs. Further, the national economy becomes more vulnerable to economic shocks from fluctuating natural-resource prices or depletion. The Solomon Islands – which relies heavily on timber exports that are collapsing from overexploitation – is a poster-child for Dutch Disease.

On top of this is the toxic odour of corruption that pervades many big infrastructure projects. One would need an abacus just to keep track of the allegations.

To cite just two recent examples: in Malaysia, an independent investigation has concluded that nearly US$4 billion was misappropriated from a state-owned fund set up to attract international property, infrastructure and energy investments. And in Brazil, the granting of contracts for major Amazon dams has been drowning in allegations of corruption.

In both nations, public coffers needed for education, health and other vital services appear to have been hugely defrauded.

Just say ‘no’

The bottom line is that many big infrastructure projects are being pushed by powerful corporations, individuals or interests that have much to gain themselves, but often at great cost to the environment and developing societies.

Globally, the path we’re currently following isn’t just unsustainable. It’s leading to an astonishingly rapid loss of forests, wildlife and wilderness. From 2000 to 2012, an area of forest two and half times the size of Texas was destroyed, while a tenth of all core forests vanished.

If we’re going to have any wild places left for our children and grandchildren, we simply can’t say “yes” to every proposed development project.

For those that will have serious environmental and social consequences, we need to start saying “no” a lot more often.

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